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4 challenges of being diabetic and 5 simple ways you can help

This year’s World Diabetes Day theme “Eyes on Diabetes” brings to mind those challenges associated with the disease. Diabetes is a multi-systemic disease, meaning that it affects many systems of the body. Being diabetic is no mean feat. It is not like having malaria or typhoid fever or any of those illnesses caused by microorganisms. Diabetes is a hormonal disease that affects blood vessels, which are found in every body organ, including the eyes.

Allow me to shine your eyes on diabetes and and the challenges faced by sufferers. I will also state 5 simple ways in which you can help diabetic patients to successfully manage this illness.

  1. Having diabetes means having to cope with a disease that has no cure, at least not yet. Think about that for a while. You were living your life jejely only for you to have a fasting blood sugar or even a random blood sugar test done. Next thing you know, you’re tagged “diabetic”; that comes with some psychological downturn.
  2. Imagine being diagnosed with diabetes at 30 years of age. This means if your lifespan would be 80 years, you’re gonna spend 50 of those years being diabetic. Not to mention the amount of money required to buy drugs for those number of years. As if that’s not worse, imagine being diagnosed with diabetes at a tender age of 5. Last year, a girl of 3 years was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: the youngest ever in the world (http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34259221)
  3. Recently, I admitted a diabetic man who was rushed into the hospital by his children and wife very early in the morning. Just the night before, he had declined admission despite medical advise. Well, this time around he was drowsy with a low blood sugar level of 40mg/dl. He was subsequently admitted and managed accordingly and discharged with a blood sugar of 112mg/dl. Why do I mention this case? He was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago. Now in his sixties and living with only the wife at home, he was already tired of taking the drugs as prescribed! He would take the first (morning) dose around 4pm; sometimes 5.30pm, just so his wife won’t talk! And then he’ll take another (evening) dose by 9pm; sometimes 10.30pm. He was basically only taking drugs for his wife’s sake.
  4. A retired soldier in his late sixties, both lower limbs were paralysed. He was diabetic; had bilateral orchidectomy for cancer of the prostate and was hypertensive. He would tell me every day he presented at the diabetic clinic that it was better to die than live a life like his. How can he not be able to defecate or urinate by himself? Why would he be a burden to his dear children at his old age? As if swallowing drugs everyday was not worse, he had to be injected with insulin twice every single day! And that after being pricked with a needle for blood sugar check twice daily. His genitals were merely a child’s play to everyone who knew him.

These are just few of the testimonies to underscore challenges faced by diabetics. You will agree with me that diabetes is better prevented than managed.

People living with diabetes need your support in the following ways:

  1. Eat along with them whenever you can. This is especially important for couples as it promotes dietary compliance. This also ensures that the other non-diabetic couple stays diabetic free.
  2. Teach them the names of the drugs they take and the doses. This is especially important for children whose parents live alone, far away from them. In case these parents meet a new doctor or their folders are not found, their drugs can be verified and doses adjusted accordingly.
  3. Ensure that they get help for the purchase of drugs. Diabetic drugs are expensive. This factor alone may greatly discourage diabetics from keeping to hospital appointments, and in turn promote poor compliance with medications. Once they’re sure that the drugs will be provided or bought for them, the willingness to comply with hospital appointments will be enhanced.
  4. Follow them during hospital appointments. Some centers require diabetics to do a fasting blood sugar check at the hospital before seeing their doctor. This means these ones are not expected to eat at home. Ever seen the crowd of people at these centers? Ever wondered what time these ones eat on those days? Most of them take sugary foods for strength! Presence of a family member will eliminate the stress of doing tests and eating late.
  5. Commend them!  Diabetics, just like hypertensives and those who live positively with HIV, share one thing in common: They take drugs everyday for the rest of their lives! That’s not an easy task. These ones deserve our collective and individual commendation. Engage with them. Make them feel like the humans that they are!

Feel free to share this piece. Do have a blissful diabetic-free day!

Edidiong Frank – Nigeria

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